Startups: The Five Cs of Success You Need to Know

Startups: The Five Cs of Success

Startups: The Five Cs of Success


You’ve just joined a new startup. The world is an exciting place and you’re right in the middle of all that innovation and newness. Your friends are envious, and your mom has no idea what you do during the day. How do you know that your startup is heading in the right direction, though? After all, according to Forbes, 90% of all startups fail. Will you be among the 10%?

Here’s a playlist of social media articles for startups:

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Real customers use your services. At first, it’s the warm leads, the friends and family, who sign up. Later, you reach out to the companies who need the services you provide. At first, the sales team is anyone who has free time to make a phone call. Later, there’s a concerted effort for everyone to pitch in. Next, there’s a real-live sales person. And eventually, an entire team, all coordinated. After all, you can’t legitimize your business without real customers.

Here’s a great article about landing your first customers on a shoe-string budget. Hint: Follow-up is key.


Confidence can be anything from a fearlessness about asking questions to the ability to tackle changes in direction. At first, being ambitious might feel uncomfortable. But after awhile, confidence has its own momentum. Getting an entire team into the habit of being involved and committed also creates its own momentum.

As Jacqueline Whitmore outlines in her article in Entrepreneur, there are Six Actions You Can Take to Build Your Self Confidence. I particularly like: “Positive energy leads to positive outcomes…”.

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When everyone who works at your startup is excited to get to work, that’s a sign that you’ve got a good thing. During the first couple of years, that pre-launch drive translates to overwork and insomnia. Sometimes, sending an email or text at midnight and getting an answer back within minutes, is thrilling. When you’re committed, and prepped for success, the orders come in. Having “skin in the game” is a common pathway to that commitment.

Paul Graham says in his article What Startups Are Really Like (still as true in 2016 as in 2009, when he wrote it):

“What people wished they’d paid more attention to when choosing cofounders was character and commitment, not ability. This was particularly true with startups that failed. The lesson: don’t pick cofounders who will flake.”

Coworkers who are working at more than one startup will often not have the energy to get a startup off the ground.


If you have transparency from the founders and your team, you’ll be able to know what’s happening from top to bottom. Often what’s said out in the hallway or between meetings is the really important. But the critical thing is knowing that you can discover what’s happening quickly if you should need to know something.

You might want to consider a Communication Architecture, as Unreasonable did, which dictates the way your team talks. And the standing meeting ensures that meetings stay short.

It’s important to have a structure for your team’s communications. While more meetings are necessarily positive, regular meetings ensure that everyone’s aligned.

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Nearly every day, something good happens that is worthy of celebrating. While there is still a lot of hard work to be done, there are also a lot of high-fives, impromptu bottles of wine and champagne being opened, and smiles. Being supportive of one another, although it might sound corny, goes a long way to making people want to stick with the crazy work hours. There are many ways to celebrate success, from a brag board to a morphing trophy, as recommended by American Express.

Is There a Sixth “C”?

Please leave me a comment and let me know what other signs of success I might have missed! And thank you.

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Startups: Ten Ways to Demotivate Employees


Startups: Ten Ways to Demotivate Employees

Startups: Ten Ways to Demotivate Employees

If you work at a startup, you might have heard of a few ways to motivate your employees. But I’ll bet you don’t know that many ways to demotivate them! Here are my top ten. And of course these are tongue-in-cheek ideas.


Looking over an employee’s shoulder, watching their every move, and poking your nose into their business is a sure way to demotivate anyone. And it’s also a great way to say “we don’t trust you to do your job.” Forbes has a good article on Managing Micromanagers. One thing to keep in mind is that the micromanager may be suffering from being micromanaged as well.

Constant Criticism

It's Still Baloney

It’s Still Baloney

Finding small errors and focusing on those is a sure way to demotivate an employee. This includes the formula that many use to deliver criticism–in a “sandwich” with two pieces of praise on either end. That’s still a big slab of baloney in the middle of that sandwich, right? Even if you do believe that you’ll make more money by making your employees happy, why do that?

Never Express Gratitude

Count to Ten

Count to Ten

If you do feel the need to say anything positive, count to ten and then wait until the moment passes. Some people seem able to follow this rule. Never saying thank you, or spending a moment to say “good job!” can work wonders in the demotivation arena.

Leave ‘Em Hanging

Promising something over and over is a fantastic way to cause people to become disenchanted. The promise can be anything from a promotion to a software release to a change in the direction of the company as a whole. And don’t explain why what they were promised never materialized.

Constant Threats of Layoffs

Don't Ever Look for the Best

Don’t Ever Look for the Best

When everyone is frightened of losing their jobs, morale is usually at a low. Even if there is no planned layoff, having a rumor that there will be one can cause a great deal of demotivation. And demotivation often brings along its friends, Fear and Lack of Confidence. Woo Hoo!

Stupidity at the Top

Put people in charge who lack experience and common sense, as well as humility, and your people will definitely feel demotivated. You might consider hiring only friends or family members for an added demotivational bonus.

Bad Communication

If you can avoid any communication telling employees what is going on, they’ll probably be unhappy. This includes email, informal get togethers, or all-hands meetings. Another good trick is to cancel meetings at the last minute.

Asking Too Much

Avoid Communication

Avoid Communication

Having lofty goals, and especially if they’re set by someone else, is a surefire recipe for disaster, especially if the goal-setter is unfamiliar with the victim’s work flow. If the goal-setter is in another part of the country, or better still, another country, that’s even better.

Being Intentionally Mean-Spirited

Few companies are intentionally mean-spirited, in my opinion. So being mean-spirited will take extra effort. It’s worth going the extra mile.

Lack of Down Time

The expectation of asking employees to always be “on” can cause burnout and fatigue. Need I say more?

What Are Your Favorite Demotivational Tips?

One of my favorite sites,, has posters and calendars for sale if you need a laugh! But I’m interested in what you’ve experienced yourself. Please leave me a comment!


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